Use of Present Perfect and
Unlike the imperfect, which is used to describe settings or habitual
actions in the past, the present perfect (passé composé)
is the tense of choice for describing events, actions which advance
the narrative. Frequently the two tenses will be used in the same passage,
even in the same sentence. In general, the
recounts distinct events, while the imperfect describes more static or
contextual elements. In general, the passé composé
corresponds to the
actions one might tell in a story, while the
imperfect corresponds to decor or background.
Compare the use of passé composé and the imperfect
in the following examples. In each case the passé composé
the principal action of the phrase:
Or it may be used to signal the interruption of a longer action (which
will usually be placed in the imperfect):
Elle lisait quand je suis arrivée. She was
reading when I arrived.
Pendant que je dormais, le professeur m'a appelé.
While I was sleeping, the professor called on
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